Circa 1989. Post Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Aamir Khan was the mint-fresh chocolate boy. But QSQT was not the first film Aamir shot for. There was Holi and Aditya Bhattacharya's Raakh, which released after QSQT. Aditya wove a compelling tale of a 21-year-old from an upper middleclass Bandra home coming face-to-face with Mumbai's underbelly. The grim tale had no takers at the box office but critical appreciation and awards poured in.
Aditya moved on, to Italy, did odd jobs and in course of time made an Italian film, Senso Unico. But there was no getting away from the memory of Raakh. “I re-watched Raakh three years ago when we were looking at re-releasing it on DVD and was struck by its purity. I was 24, Aamir 23 and none of us were stars, including cinematographer Santosh Sivan and editor Sreekar Prasad who made their debut with Raakh. The film was an upper middle class boy's reaction to the violence in Mumbai. I didn't want a typical Bollywood ending and chose a dark end,” recalls Aditya Bhattacharya, over a cup of French press coffee.
Aditya wondered how he would deal with the story today. “I am much older today and maybe I would have an ending with a possibility of redemption. In 2009-10, I chanced upon this reality in downtown Los Angeles (Aditya now divides his time between Mumbai, Los Angeles and Sicily) when I came across former members of dangerous gangs who had served terms in prison now taking to street art,” he says.
The obvious suggestion from friends was to take the story back to Aamir Khan. Though Aamir and Aditya's friendship goes back to school days, Aditya's journey as a filmmaker is now different. Not wanting to leverage on his lineage (Aditya is the grandson of Bimal Roy and son of Basu Bhattacharya), Aditya had moved to Italy wanting to prove himself on his own. His filmography includes Dubai Returns (2005). Aditya now wants to challenge himself by taking Raakh's story to a new destination, Los Angeles. “Making the film and releasing it here is easy. The challenge lies in making an English film for an international audience that doesn't know me or Rana. I have the arrogance and people that believe in my arrogance and are willing to back me up,” he says.
He is not losing sleep over how the international audience will react. “When I see readers across the world reading Sacred Games or Maximum City, which make no attempt to cater to a global audience, I feel there is scope. In movies, we have examples from the past. Ray's trilogy is as Bengali as it can get and yet celebrated globally till date. We, contemporary filmmakers, haven't managed to do that,” he says.
Rana, vulnerable yet determined
What made him zero in on Rana Daggubati for the Raakh adaptation, A Momentary Lapse of Time? “To be frank I didn't know about Rana and I haven't seen any of his films. My friends Sunita Taty (also a producer of the film) suggested Rana's name. I learnt that despite his lineage, Rana was making an effort to choose films that are different. I also learnt that he had built a business and sold it before he becoming an actor. Like Aamir in his 20s, I saw that Rana has the awkwardness associated with his age, is vulnerable and at the same time driven by determination,” reasons Aditya.
In the meantime, Aditya is also making a cop film, Kala Ghoda, to be co-produced by John Abraham. But that is another story.